A family recipe meets a market niche
By Mike Lauterborn
(posted to North Haven Patch.com 6/16)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.
North Haven, CT – An interest in healthy eating and desire to create her own legacy led a North Haven-based Armenian immigrant to bring her flavorful, all-natural salad dressings to the marketplace. She hasn’t looked back since.
Ani Tirpan, founder of Wholesome Creations, makers of 100% natural, vegan, gluten-free salad dressings, said she had been working in various home textile manufacturing and import companies for about 25 years before she set off on her own venture. The 51-year-old mother of three grown children said, “I’d been making everyone else successful except me and decided it was time to take the reins.”
She began to think of things she was good at and realized she had been happily making her own salad dressing, something she called Lemon Paradise, for about 30 years. “I’d always gotten a lot of positive feedback about it, and friends suggested I should market it,” she said. “I always used very fresh and all-natural ingredients, squeezing fresh lemons to make the dressing. We would put it on everything. My kids loved it. And as a working mother, it gave me a lot of help in making quick meals that were healthy and nutritious.”
In early 2009, she got on the internet and started searching around to see what dressings were already out there. “I found a lot of products claiming they were all-natural,” she said. “On closer inspection, I saw they were not using fresh ingredients, but a lot of concentrates and powders instead. I realized that the trend of healthy eating in America was growing faster than the industry could keep up.”
As she was still working full days and her brother, Oves, was on disability and had some time on his hands, Tirpan asked him to research the guidelines and FDA regulations involved with introducing a product. They also started to do some market analysis to try and determine if the product would be well received. At the same time, they made batches of dressing and started sampling it at street fairs in New York to get consumer feedback. “The response was overwhelming,” said Tirpan. “I knew I had something that was very special.”
She also realized that she would need to create more than one flavor. “I didn’t want to repeat any of the existing flavors on the market, so I researched ingredients to see which were healthiest and that we could incorporate while maintaining great taste,” she said.
As Tirpan didn’t have any formal culinary training, she mixed and matched flavors and did a lot of experimenting. Ultimately, she developed three new flavors – Mediterranean, Green Tea & Ginger, and Pomegranate Cranberry.
In October 2010, Tirpan took the set of four flavors to the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, one of the oldest and most popular East Coast shows wherein manufacturers and retailers sample their products to the general public.
“It was a big opportunity for me to see if these were worth pursuing,” said Tirpan about the event. “It was a good fit because my products are suited to Vegans and gluten-free, while also being designed for consumers who ascribe to a healthy lifestyle.”
Again, the response was very positive. “We brought 500 ten-ounce bottles with us and all were sold out by the first day of the two-day show,” she said. “All through the second day, people continued to crowd our table for samples, even though they couldn’t purchase the product.”
Amidst the crowd was a Whole Foods Market buyer who said he wanted to carry the salad dressings in his store. “That was really the beginning of our market entry,” Tirpan said. “From there, we rented a warehouse and office and built a kitchen. To this day, the makers are still me and my son Eric. We use a co-packer to help us bottle. We have the ability to produce 500,000 bottles per month, though we are currently producing 10,000 per month, to meet current market demand.”
Recently, Wholesome Creations partnered with U.N.F.I. (United Natural Foods), one of the largest natural food distributors in the U.S. “This will help us gain placement in other major supermarket chains around the country,” Tirpan said.
In the meantime, Tirpan operates an interactive website through which consumers can share information and experiences with gluten-free products and exchange recipes. “I believe this is a good forum and a responsibility that aligns with our product marketing.”
Reflecting on her journey to this point, Tirpan said, “I never thought a family favorite dressing would ever become something greater. I’m glad to be able to share these taste sensations with a wider audience. You don’t have to sacrifice good taste for health and many people do with other products that are currently available.”